- Do not confuse this promotion with the original UWF, which, unlike the second version, operated as "Universal Wrestling Federation".
The UWF was a Japanese professional wrestling organization founded in 1988 by Maeda Akira. It was the new version of another organization which previously existed as the Universal Wrestling Federation between 1984 and 1986. However, the 2nd UWF, also referred to as "New UWF" or "Newborn UWF" by the fans, simply operated as "U.W.F." but never as "Universal Wrestling Federation".
After Akira Maeda was suspended without pay and eventually dismissed from New Japan Pro-Wrestling for injuring Riki Chōshū during a match, Takada Nobuhiko, Yamazaki Kazuo, Yōji Anjō, Miyato Shigeo, and Nakano Tatsuo agreed to leave New Japan as well.
The newborn UWF held its first card "STARTING OVER" on 1988/5/12 at Kōrakuen Hall. The tickets were all sold out fifteen mitutes after they were released.
The organization's superb cards set the standard for shoot-style wrestling to follow. Because of the clean finishes (as in, submissions or knockouts in the middle of the ring), the fans could see clear-cut winners and losers, and it was more accepted as "real fighting" than New Japan or All Japan, which at the time were still using the American-originated standard of countouts and disqualifications.
The promotional method was also unique, as they concentrated on the monthly cards in large cities instead of the traditional tours. At each card, the video tapes of the previous card were released for sale. New method maintained the quality of the matches as well as the health of the competitors.
In early 1989, Fujiwara Yoshiaki, who had remained in New Japan but now wanted out, left New Japan for the UWF. Around the same time, Maeda held a meeting with New Japan president Antonio Inoki, in which they agreed that New Japan rookies Funaki Masaharu and Suzuki Minoru would join the UWF. That year also saw the debut of Kiyoshi Tamura, who fought Suzuki in his debut match.
1990 saw many ups and downs in the short story of UWF. Future stars Kakihara Masahito and Fuke Yūsuke debuted, and a new rulebook was devised in which the first person to score 5 knockdowns (in which the opponent could not get back up at once, similar to boxing knockout attempts) would win, giving the 5-knockdown situation the same weight as a submission. Jin Shinji, a non-wrestler who had taken over for Maeda as company president the previous year, wanted to co-promote with other federations and styles, particularly SWS, but Maeda, resenting other forms of professional wrestling from his New Japan days, decided to put the idea off. This, and the general Japanese economic downturn of the era, prompted UWF to close its doors with a farewell card on 1990/12/1, in Matsumoto, Nagano.
Though it once seemed that the UWF wrestlers would unite to start a new organization, there was a disagreement among them. In 1991/1, Meada had a meeting with other wrestlers in his apartment and announced that UWF was closing. The roster split into three groups. Fujiwara, Funaki, Suzuki, and Fuke founded Professional Wrestling Fujiwara-gumi, which made Jin's co-promoting idea into reality. Maeda, basically by himself, founded Fighting Network RINGS, using foreign talents such as Chris Dolman and Dirk Vrij. The rest of the roster (Takada, Yamazaki, Anjo, Nakano, Tamura, Kakihara, and Miyato) started UWF International with Takada as the company's president and top star.
As the only form of wrestling to actually originate in Japan, the UWF was a pioneer. Although its roots were Antonio Inoki's wrestling style (Sayama Satoru, who was in the original UWF, and Takada credit Inoki as their inspiration to become wrestlers), UWF made wrestling realistic and forced other promotions to follow. In fact, All Japan starting in 1989 virtually abandoned countout and disqualification finishes, which enabled the famous "Shitennō Puroresu" to arise.
The UWF's wrestling style has made inroads in its root promotion, New Japan, where natives Nagata Yūji, Kanemoto Kōji, and Shibata Katsuyori use UWF-style kicks despite having never competed in a shoot-style promotion as their peers Tanaka Minoru, Naruse Masayuki, and Kakihara (who joined New Japan in the early 2000s) have. Other natives who turned to martial arts fighting such as Yasuda Tadao, Fujita Kazuyuki and Kendō Ka Shin also have UWF inspiration. Above all, however, UWF paved a way for mixed-martial arts circuits to be viable.